City Weekend

Want a Hong Kong experience? Drink outside 7-Eleven and hire ‘celebrity’ tutors

Beyond its skyline and modernity, the city’s everyday aspects such as getting beers at ‘Club 7’, revering tutors and casual compliments make it a unique place to live in

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2017, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 1:13pm

From “Club 7” (7-Eleven convenience stores) to “celebrity” exam tutors, Hong Kong has plenty of things that make it special. It is this quirky mix of tangible and intangible aspects of everyday life that, when blended together, gives us a glimpse of the city’s social structure and cultural characteristics. Yupina Ng has identified a number of social phenomena that are uniquely Hong Kong.

1. Murphy’s Law: No available cabs are in sight between 3pm and 5pm every day

Taxis are especially hard to catch during this time of the day because it is when most drivers change their shifts. If you do see taxis on the street at that time, drivers will offer you a ride only if your destination is close to where they have to hand over their vehicles to the next driver.

2. Ambushed: Property agents selling new flats to passers-by outside MTR stations

A census report showed there were 23,833 people working in real estate brokerage and agencies in 2015, a jump of 8 per cent from 21,907 in 2014. Many of them try to persuade passers-by outside MTR stations to buy a new flat, or at least consider buying one by visiting a show flat nearby as many new residental projects are located near MTR stations.

3. Club 7 (Eleven): Drinking and dancing outside 7-Eleven stores in Lan Kwai Fong

A beer in a Lan Kwai Fong bar costs HK$60 or more, but one from 7-Eleven costs around HK$10 only. That is why many party-goers, especially students and the budget conscious, choose to drink outside the convenience stores. In the heart of LKF, there are three 7-Eleven outlets, which are not good news for bars nearby. Bar operators have linked the decline in their business to this preference.

4. Too poor to grow old: elderly people picking up cardboard boxes for a living

Poverty is a serious problem in Hong Kong, with elderly people struggling to make a living. It is not uncommon to see them pushing trolleys loaded with cardboard boxes, which they resell to recycling companies for meagre earnings. The Post earlier reported that a 79-year-old woman was earning only 70 cents per kilogram of waste paper collected. As of April this year, 144,755 elderly people are receiving government handouts.

5. Go figure: Fancy cars with personalised number plates such as HANDSOME and FAT CAT

Applications for personalised vehicle registration marks are accepted in January, May and September every year. Under the scheme, a vehicle owner can choose their preferred vehicle registration mark by applying to the Transport Department and use it upon approval after a successful bidding exercise. The bidding price starts HK$5,000. A Post reporter once spotted a Ferrari with a personalised number plate that read “PLAYBOY”.

6. Reach for the stars: Exam tutors are almost always treated like celebrities

It is normal to see huge outdoor billboards displaying the faces and names of exam tutors in Hong Kong. These tutors get rock star treatment mainly because the local school system is heavily exam-oriented and hence good tutors are often worshipped like gods and goddesses. Students, especially those sitting for university entrance exams, go to tutorial centres after school to hone their skills. These tutorial classes usually cost thousands of dollars per month.

7. Sharp spitter: Middle-aged and elderly men spit directly into public bins and never miss

We know it is a gross habit but it is a rather common local phenomenon. You see someone, most likely a middle-aged or elderly man, walking towards you and then suddenly turn his head to the side and spit right into a roadside bin. Natural reflexes or lots of practice, we don’t know. But Hong Kong has strict laws on maintaining environmental hygiene, including fixed fines of HK$1,500 for littering and spitting, even into a rubbish bin.

‘Growing numbers’ of Hong Kong high school students applying for US universities – and paying thousands for ‘college prep’ tutoring

8. Females of all ages are addressed as “leng nui” (pretty girl) and males as “leng jai” (pretty boy)

Addressing someone as “leng nui” or “leng jai” is widely acceptable in the city, even for people you do not know very well or are meeting for the first time. Even if the person is unattractive, he or she will often graciously accept the compliment. And don’t worry, calling someone pretty in Hong Kong is not considered a form of flirting – in most cases, anyway.

9. Real estate superstition: residential buildings skip “unlucky” numbers so it’s not uncommon to see tower blocks go up to 50 floors

The number “4” is phonetically similar to the word “death” in Cantonese. So any number combination that has a “4” in it will not be used as floor numbers. Sometimes, even 13 is omitted.